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Starring: Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Billy Bob Thorton, Michael Clark Duncan, Keith David, Steve Buscemi, and Will Patton
Directed by Michael Bay
It used to be that the summer movie blockbuster thrived to make a spectacular event rather then strive for a human story. Most of the movies where viciously put down by critics who claimed that the special effects where more drawn out then character and plot development. But not always will a movie work if the writers attempt to humanize their special effects laden monster, and 1998's lackluster ARMAGEDDON proved that mixing special effects with emotions doesn't mix well. It also proved that Hollywood knows how to waste $135 million dollars.
Our odyssey through eye candy begins when the earth is in danger of becoming the prime target for a monstrous comet, which is heading our way at an alarming speed and will hit within the next two weeks or so. NASA does everything in their power to come up with a solution but all seem incomprehensible to the mind and logic (perhaps the writers where foreshadowing something for us early on?). So NASA employee Dan Truman (Thorton) comes up with an ingenious idea (what do they get paid for anyway?), and that is recruit an oil drilling team led by salt of the earth and devoted father Harry S. Stamper (Willis), to whip up into shape, suit up and blast off into space where they will drill a hole into the comet, place a nuclear bomb in it and ship off as it blows up. Stamper is up for the job, as are the loyal men who work under him. But before he blasts off he must promise wide eyed daughter Grace (Tyler), that he'll take care of her boyfriend A.J. (Affleck), who is going along for the ride as well. And if you haven't seen the movie, you'll never guess what happens, gasp!, things don't go according to plan and a good solid hour drags by before the inevitable finally occurs.
I've only seen this movie once in the theatre three years ago, but looking back on all the summers and all the Blockbuster movies which where hollow is substance and big on creating big bangs, this is the only one which truly offended me. INDEPENDENCE DAY was lame, but still had a few good moments that caught my attention. TWISTER was a ludicrous love story with no plot to speak of, but at least had a little bit of charm to it that was instantly forgotten. GODZILLA was a clunker, but horrid dialogue and a depressing atmosphere where also easily forgotten. But ARMAGEDDON was a movie that tried to do what so many machine movies before it have intentionally left out, and that was try to make it into a human story of the will to triumph. An excellent theme to work with as long as the movie wills it, but this movie is aware that it is a machine and it still tries to cheat itself and the audience. We must endure the painfully colorless romance of an unconvincing Tyler and a moronic faced Affleck (get it, love survives!), and have to sit through Willis acting like Tyler's devoted daddy, and attempts to pull the protective dad act by acting like a nutcase when finds Affleck in bed with Tyler. The movie is a product in denial, wanting to be one thing while obviously going for the other. The performances don't matter, since they are all one note and mind numbingly contrived (Willis is a single dad, Affleck is fatherless, Thorton wishes he could blast off into space but can't, Tyler is the proud girlfriend/daughter).
Michael Bay, director of the migraine inducing THE ROCK (though a much more enjoyable movie), attempts to pull all the punches while doing a hacks job. He wants to make a soap opera set in a time where tragedy looms, the only thing missing is Liv Tyler sleeping with Affleck's brother to spice things up. He wants the movie loud, obnoxious and brainless, while trying to put in a story about people in a time of crisis. But people like the ones depicted in the movie don't exist, they are cartoon characters and nothing more. He even recycles old material, such as the scene where we get the damn speech by the President of the United States (instead of Bill Pullman shouting out, Today we celebrate our Independence Day, some guy comes on and with an unintentionally hilarious serious tone churns out, The Bible calls this day Armageddon, the end of all things).
There is no urgency in the movie, there is no story in the movie, you either sit back and ignore the haphazard attempts of humanity and humor the filmmakers put in, or you sit back an enjoy the ride. But for me, it was a relentless roller coaster ride which gets stuck ten seconds after it begins and sits there for all to marvel at. But people don't usually like looking at something that doesn't work to begin with.
My Grade: D